Oathday, 17th of Rova, 4707
This morning I woke up with a headache. I can’t believe I let Ecaeris talk me into that third glass of wine. It was so good to see him. It must’ve been almost a decade since we got the chance to catch up like that. I’m afraid the “sighting” of mother turned out to be one of his eccentric fancies but given she died twenty years ago that is most likely for the best. This world is full of strange mysteries and very few of them are kind. After breakfast I took Ecaeris up to meet Elias as he had been trying to arrange a meeting with the Redcliffs for some time unsuccessfully. I wasted the rest of the day talking with traders attempting purchase a few pounds of adamantium. It’s all on contract. Back at the Hearth an invitation from Vali was waiting for me so I’m off to meet him for dinner.
With the exception of Elias, Vali had gathered the whole of our group from Vauntil. After warming us up with wine and good food he revealed he wanted help with another job. Apparently, he is working directly and unofficially for the crown, or at least believes he is. I’m not sure what I think but as long as the coin keeps coming and the job is fair it’s a better way to make a living than killing rats. His interest in this collection of misfits confuses me though. Just motivating everyone tonight was difficult, let alone keeping them focused on the same job. His tongue must have been as honeyed as the sweet rolls because he managed to steer all of us towards the manor where everyone agreed to “take a look”.
A well placed shot by Vali gave us the distraction we needed to jump down onto the roof of the manor of a minor lord. Yeah, I wrote that correctly. The lord of the manor had recently been on an archeological expedition and the Crown wanted some dangerous property of his removed on the quiet. No one had seen or heard from the lord for a couple weeks and then sometime yesterday his home had sunk into the earth and everything started getting creepy. Not the creepiest but a good start was that the two soldiers guarding the gate to the place had been killed and mutilated. Each had his nose sliced off, smiles cut deep and wide across their faces, and a lidless eye carved onto their head. There was some debate about this being either some child killer called the Smiling Man or some cult to Gee the Magnificent. I’d never heard of either but decided whatever was doing this deserved what our murderous, mentally unbalanced group was about to inflict on them. I felt a weight lift off me I hadn’t realized I had been carrying.
Sinking under the ground had done some minor damage to the manor and we found a drop of about a dozen feet that would put us onto a marble floor below. As the others made the simple climb I leapt down intending to roll up and guard their descent. I must have hit a hidden beam in the darkness. Needles of light exploded in my head and blood filled my mouth shattering my thoughts. Seconds or maybe minutes later I heard heavy boots getting louder and then Vargan’s voice “I got this”. Terror rose in me as my fuzzy head slowly realized he meant to ‘help’ me. “noo.. no.. no..” I tried to protest but my lips slurred the words as the brute engulfed my head in his beefy moist hands. With a twist and quiet pop I felt my head yanked and another jolt ran through me. Dumbfounded, I could suddenly see and think clear again. I rose and stretched, amazed all my limbs worked.
At this point we were on an upper floor of the manor. All around us was dust and debris from the crumbled roof and gilding but the walls seemed intact. In a side room we found a servant sweeping in the pitch dark. The others thought her possessed or a monster in disguise and to be honest I did see that possibility after the vampire horrors that attacked Elias a few weeks back. But I’d seen survivors like this before, mostly in war torn villages. Usually it’s the innocents overwhelmed by the brutality of what a common soldier is capable of. But I once saw a hardened captain obvious to his body which had been shorn and cauterized neatly at the belt line by sorcerous fire. For several minutes he stared blankly checking and rechecking his pocket watch but never registering what he was seeing. He was muttering about the carriage being late and worried he would miss the opera. Finally my sergeant stepped forward and put a bullet in his head. We were all horrified and I think also grateful. They hung the sergeant a few days later.
We left the woman sitting at a small round table oblivious to the water and food we set in front of her. Persephone had picked up the trail of a group that had come before us, probably the ones responsible for the gruesome murder of the guards outside. We descended down the winding stairwell following our hunter. Below was a large room with several doors and hallways. Vargan ran into a foyer that ended with large double doors and pounded on them. When he looked down he saw restless dead rousing beneath the foyer’s glass floor. Further away Persephone opened a door triggering an ambush. Darkness engulfed her and poured across the room followed by the sounds of sharp steel being drawn. As the darkness faded and respawned we fought a hulking warrior and handful of dark clad cultists. The apparent master of this crew was a tall thin man capable of casting spells. It took the concentrated focus of Aetherton, Persephone, Halda, and I to finally kill the bloodlusted warrior. He shrugged off several nearly lethal blows without slowing. In fact his face seemed more in ecstasy rather than pain. Under assault from Vali’s arrows, Halda’s sorcery, and Vargan’s howls the surviving lesser cultists fled. Vargan pursued them with a vengeance. The thin man eluded our best efforts although I believe Aetherton did draw blood from him. With gestures and a whisper he disappeared.
While Vargan was occupied carving up a cultist and ripping apart the manor’s furnishings the others began exploring some of the rooms. Vali and I interrupted a crowd of servants chanting to some dark god. We killed a few before I had the thought that the servants may be unwitting victims. I switched up my spear grip and began to beat them down. Better maimed than dead. Fighting with spear and bow proved difficult in the kitchen crowded with prep tables and hanging pots and while the servants couldn’t hurt us they were surprisingly difficult to stop. Adding to the chaos Vali managed to shoot me in the back for the second time that night. Yes, that’s twice in the same night! Had it not been for my salvaged goblin chainshirt I may have been killed. Arrows are for firing en masse into troop lines, not for shooting in close quarters with your allies engaged. I’ll need to teach him how to use a melee weapon the next chance we get. After a few minutes of this I noticed Aetherton standing in the doorway chuckling as he watched us flail and fumble. He remarked something about bringing his cooking staff on our next adventure as these servants seem to be quite formidable foes. My face twisted from a scowl to a smile. As we finally dropped the last of the servants I heard new voices coming from the other room.